Concerned about $26 million in federal education funding for Montana that could be lost in 2014, the local teachers union president urged Missoula County Public Schools trustees to action Tuesday night.
At the Board of Trustees’ monthly meeting, Melanie Charlson outlined what is at risk if funding cut through federal sequestration is not replaced.
Among the items on the chopping block: $3 million in Title I grants and $2 million in special education grants.
With congressional negotiations underway and a House vote scheduled Friday on replacing the across-the-board cuts with a different set of spending reductions and non-tax revenue, the time is ripe to act, Charlson said.
“I am urging you tonight to take action before Dec. 13,” she said.
Charlson said Montanans should urge the state’s congressional delegation to support replacement the sequestrated money through two websites – contactingthecongress.org and publicshoolshakedown.org.
In other board business, Sentinel High School student trustee Hailey Gray discussed an innovative smartphone app a classmate is working on to help prevent texting while driving and lower drivers’ insurance rates.
Jackson Smith would like to develop the app through a safe-driving grant from insurance company State Farm, but can’t be the recipient of the funding. Sentinel’s DECA program agreed to serve as the grantee, which is the reason the matter came before trustees.
Impressed by the project, the board unanimously approved the grant application.
Trustees also approved the district’s request to spend $30,000 on improving Sentinel High School’s softball fields as a way to reduce a debt owed to the University of Montana.
In 2006, MCPS completed a complicated land transaction with UM for two islands of property across from the district’s Business Building on South Avenue West.
That land, affectionately called the “Homevale property,” now belongs to MCPS, which paid UM $200,000 in 2006 but still owes $162,000, said Pat McHugh, MCPS director of business and operations.
In an unusual but mutually beneficial arrangement, UM would like to use the Sentinel’s softball fields as it ramps up its new athletic program, McHugh said when answering questions about the history of the land sale after the board meeting.
Upgrading the fields for college-level play will cost the district about $30,000, which UM agreed count toward the debt.
“We get credit against the debt, and the money we spend will stay with the Sentinel ballfield and benefit our students,” McHugh said.